Monday, July 23, 2012

Where Teamwork is the Name of the Game
By:  SMSgt Michael G. Lander (164th Operations Support Flight)
This article was originally published in "The River City Flyer" (a newspaper of the 164th Airlift Wing, Memphis, TN) in March 2000. 

Instructors John Pegg, standing, & Martin Donnelly, seated center back, of Crew Training International, teach members of Operations the finer points of Crew Resource Management.  (Photo Credit:  Maj Janet Brady).

Nearly everyday of the week, the 164th Airlift Wing has one or more planes and crews flying to or from any given place around the world.
"Although we have flown a lot of AMC Channel missions to South America," Lt Col Harry D. Montgomery, Jr concedes, "we also fly many air refueling, airdrops, locals, and Guardlift missions too."  As the Director of Operations, Lt Col Montgomery oversees most of the flight operations that occur on a day-to-day basis and makes sure that the unit meets all of its airlift requirements.
According to Lt Col Montgomery, "It is our job to have trained aircrews who are always ready to provide strategic airlift whether it is in support of the Air Force or the Air National Guard."
The ability to accomplish this daunting task of flying missions anywhere at anytime is not something that is done exclusively by Operations however.  It takes the combined efforts of everyone.  "Everyone on base contributes in some way," says SMSgt Billy Baxter who is in charge of the 155th Airlift Squadron's Current Operations.
"There is no aspect in or out of our unit's C-141C aircraft that does not require some teamwork," the 164th Operations Group Commander, Lt Col David N. Burton acknowledges.  "This is especially important when one considers the nature of the business that we are in."
As valuable as this might be to those who fly around in an aircraft that weighs over 300,000 pounds, there are still others on this base for which the need for teamwork could also apply.
"Nobody can downplay the role of other units like that of Maintenance because without them, and the job that they do as a team, we wouldn't be able to do our part," Lt Col Burton contends.
As for this unit's aircrew members, from the time that they begin their pre-flight procedures until the time that the chalks are put down and the post-mission debrief is done, they must work together, and rely on each other, to safely and effectively get the job done.  Crew members understand the importance of this and refer to it as "crew resource management," or CRM for short. 
For laymen, this concept could best be summed up or described as "teamwork in action."  Crews are trained to listen, to give feedback, to minimize conflict, and to work together as one cohesive unit.  This team-inspired approach is often described by MSgt Serge Trullet, a flight engineer, as "leadership with participation and assertiveness with respect."
Even though the military's use of the acronym of CRM is no more than a decade and a half old, several members in this unit would be quick to point out that they have been aware of it even longer than that.
While some may have learned of its value through experience, others were introduced to it through the commercial aviation industry several years before the military adopted it for its aircrews.
Whether you call it CRM, or simply look at it as the accumulative efforts of people just working together toward the same objective, the results are still very much the same.  The unit regularly flies various missions around the world and, as a team, this unit has successfully maintained an outstanding flying safety record with no Class-A mishaps for over 85,000 flying hours.
In the first three months of this year, our aircrew personnel are receiving a CRM course led by the company Crew Training International (CTI) in Memphis, Tenn. 
"Although the training is not anything new to many of our people," Lt Col Montgomery said, "it is something that can never be stressed enough."
With a strong emphasis on problem-resolution and instruction on how to work more effectively with others, "CRM is something that can even be taken outside of the cockpit and used in any other work environment," Lt Col Montgomery said.  "And if it were done, everybody would benefit from it."

MSgt Bob Callahan, left, & Maj Brian
Bailey, right, both of the 155th Airlift
Squadron, listen to classroom exercise
explanations from their instructors.
(Photo Credit:  Maj Janet Brady)
SSgt John Brown, left, and SSgt
Wanda Farmer, right, both of the
155th Airlift Squadron, listen to
directions for a team-building

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